Cayman Brac has produced a number of fine musicians over the years, including the Martin brothers, consisting of Edlee, Conrad, Andy and Gary; Percy Whorms; Vernon Smith; Burman, Raymond and Eddie Scott; the Brac Beach Boys; and Quincy Brown. Then there’s Hinton Conolly, who will be celebrating his 80th birthday on Saturday, Sept. 9.
At age 17, he signed up with National Bulk Carriers and spent the next six and a half years sailing the globe, with a stop at nearly every port from Philadelphia to Venezuela to the Gulf. On ship, the crew would listen to radio stations from Nashville and Shreveport that played heartbreaking, tear-jerking country music, which was a perfect formula for homesickness.
When he returned home to the Brac, Mr. Conolly did some farming and then started working for the Brac Power and Light Company. From there, he went on to be employed by Cable & Wireless where he worked for some 30 years. During this time, he would play his guitar and sing at any venue that would have him.
He said he has always been fond of Merle Haggard and Jim Reeves and, like most of his cohort, he despises modern country music, which as he proclaims “is rock ‘n’ roll, not country.”
In 1977, Mr. Conolly went to New York and recorded his first album “A Quick Drink at the Pool Bar.” The vinyl record became an overnight success, not only on the Brac and Grand Cayman, but among audiences in the Bay Islands and Belize, who supported the sales.
Today, next to his home and caboose, is his “Las Vegas Hilton Recording Studio.” Compared to most modern digitally, automated studios, the Las Vegas Hilton is antique. However, that’s insignificant to Mr. Conolly, who still spends many hours there listening to the playback of himself singing his favorite country tunes.
He still listens to what’s playing on the local radio station but says he is dismayed at the lack of recognition that local musicians are getting. “It seems older local songs are being placed on the shelf and swapped for older imported music,” he said.
To celebrate his birthday, Mr. Conolly will be joined by his son and daughter who plan to travel to the Brac for the event.
He says he plans on cooking lots of local food and is pretty sure other musicians and singers on island who have a guitar and tune to share will stop by and spend the afternoon singing and reminiscing.